A few days ago, I hiked Twin Falls with a friend. As breathtaking as it was escaping my writing desk to the great outdoors, I realized writing is like a waterfall. Of course, there’s the beauty of it: flowery words that drop like metaphors in brilliant sprays. But there’s also a powerful force that tempts my soul as much as it frightens. Let me explain…
For me, writing begins with my senses. I must visualize a new character for a novel or smell the rain in the poem I am penning. The same was true on our hike. At first, I felt the quietude of being away from the city. Logistically I knew Seattle was right over my shoulder, but mentally, at that moment, a sense of silence anchored me in for the experience. Once I assimilated to the blanket of rich soil over the concrete of the city, shades of brown ran from under my feet to the trunks of lofty green trees, and the trickling sound of water bound everything together like a gift. I was hooked.
My friend and I moved along our path; the freshness in the air thick like southern fireflies. My mind felt cleansed and ready to open the gift of the forest. We followed the source of increasing tempo…rushing water over rounded rock, polished from years of erosion. The invigorating sound evolved as we made our way under moss-heavy evergreens. What began as a trickling creek grew into a small flowing river.
Instantly, I was enveloped in the magic of where stories start for me.
With mushrooms plopped under fern fronds, I half expected someone from the Fair Folk to pop out. My friend and I followed the trail further, which followed the stream, which in retrospect I imagine now as a breath of life for the forest. We stopped along spots where the water pooled like a pond, calm and thoughtful. It reminded me of my writing process. Sometimes my ideas wade in a deeper part of my mind until a spark forms and flows…into a current.
In this new flux, my imagination takes shape and either grows into something unique to be shared or savored in my pocket for another day. But as these currents gain speed and tempo, my mind swells in possibilities. I write and write, create outlines, begin drafts, crumple paper, abandon previous outlines, and then write some more.
Now, my ideas travel in many directions, but some of them race along the rocks and mud and silt until gravity demands its crescendo…the upsurge of the waterfall. Closer and closer my story ideas and poetry pieces flow, faster and faster until they leap into the wild free-falling ride down to the deep bottom of completion.
To begin again.
Realization strikes; my stories and poems have a life to live. Just like the water cycle, or even the longer creation of a waterfall, my writing channels its own lifeline. This is both a wonderful and scary truth to accept. The cascade of a waterfall is majestic and picturesque, a beautiful thing to watch. Yet the thunderous pulse of its power is down-right terrifying. If I thought to reach out and touch it, a lot could go wrong. All of it dramatic…and all of it demanding the freedom to be.
To publish or not to publish?
As you can see, I’m right back in that pool thoughtfully contemplating. The water is deeper here, with room to breathe and a moment to drift before the current picks up. And moves on…
Hiking with my friend was revitalizing. I enjoyed looking at my writing as a waterfall. I suppose I need only accept its pace in nature and move with it, rather than against it.
Ha! As if I could move against the flow of a waterfall.
Writing Advice: Get Noisy – And Listen
Talk out loud about your writing. If that means you listen to yourself read your work aloud behind the privacy of your bathroom door. Do it. If it means you pay your children or siblings or friends to listen as you read your work aloud in exchange for chocolate. Do it. If it means you type everything up and use the text-to-speech option in your computer’s word-processing program, even though it sounds robotic and pronounces some of your vowels wrong. Do it.
I am not professing to be a perfect writer, but I will say I’ve caught many a snag or snafu by hearing back my written word. It’s also nice to meet another writer for lunch and simply chat about a concept or a process. A mentor teacher of mine, from y-e-a-r-s ago used to call it a “verbal rehearsal.” That might be from Step Up to Writing, but I honestly can’t remember. However, I teach it to my students every year. And if they can do it, you can too.
Announce your writing ideas to the universe. Speak them into being in your car. Talk to yourself about them in the grocery store or on a walk (with earbuds in so you don’t look entirely crazy). Practice dialogue and setting descriptions verbally so you can hear the flow. After hearing your work aloud, you might find a fresh direction you may not have thought to try—had you left your words flat on the page.
I invite you to get loud about your writing. Listen for the grand rush and graceful cascade of language as if it were a waterfall. I will bet you’ll be splendidly surprised (or mortified, in which case edit away, as we’ve all been there). Just get noisy and remember to listen!
Happy Writing (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, July 14, 2019
Image and Content Links and Credits:
https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/how-are-waterfalls-formed/ (how waterfalls are formed)
http://ciaffoncini.com/work-of-art/out-loud/ (artist Tommaso Ciaffoncini)
Waterfall and Hiking pictures from my iPhone 😊
Categories: Thoughts on writing...
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